afrol News, 25 September - Fizi, a town of 4,000 inhabitants in Congo's (DRC) war-ravaged province of South Kivu, has been "rediscovered" by international humanitarian organisations after four years of isolation. It is hoped that medical supplies finally can be brought in again.
Fizi has at several occasions been the scene of fighting between Congolese, Rwandan and Burundian troops and a large number of rebel groups more or less supported by these three countries. In September to December last year, Fizi several times changed hands between a Congolese and Hutu coalition and a coalition of Tutsi and Rwandan troops. The fighting involved mortars and other heavy artillery.
As a result of the fighting, the Fizi area is believed to house approximately 20,000 internally displaced people, which have been cut off from international support and supplies. The situation developed into a humanitarian crisis, and in December 2001, 100 cases of cholera were reported in the region, with a mortality rate of about 50 percent.
During 2002, Fizi has been under the control of the Rwandan Patriotic Army (RPA), which is now slowly pulling out of Congo Kinshasa.
Last Wednesday, a joint team of Médecins Sans Frontières (MSF) and the Fizi local Red Cross society reached the isolated town of Fizi, some 200 km south of Bukavu in Congo Kinshasa (DRC), for the first time since the fighting, MSF reports today.
This was the first visit from an international NGO since July 1998. Due to insecurity and fighting between various armed groups it had been impossible to have access to the town's population. MSF brought a supply of medicines and medical materials into Fizi and equipment capable of assisting this forgotten population of roughly 4,000.
The joint team, made up of expatriate and national staff from MSF and the Fizi local Red Cross, including the Red-Cross president, visited Fizi last 11 September.
The visit was part of a six-week humanitarian assessment mission carried out by MSF in the southern part of the war-torn province of South Kivu and targeted the previously inaccessible health zones of Uvira, Nundu and Fizi. The aim of this visit was to briefly assess the status of the Fizi General Reference Hospital, as well as the local infrastructure e.g. roads, bridges and shelter.
- It is hoped that the recent visit will pave the way for other humanitarian actors as well to reach Fizi with the view of extending assistance there soon, MSF said in a statement. "Security is always an issue in the DRC and it is critical that agencies considering involvement take this very seriously before and during operations." The organisation was to make available a report on the findings of this assessment in early October.
Sources: Based on the MSF and afrol archives